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New Castle West End Residents Call for Relief on New Watershed Regs

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The New Castle Town Board continued to receive pushback from residents of the town’s West End last week in reaction to tighter restrictions for more than 100 properties within a special watershed protection district.

Several homeowners affected by the proposed regulations for the Indian Brook-Croton Gorge Watershed Protection Overlay District renewed calls for New Castle to explore alternatives rather than saddling them with overbearing regulation that would likely cost them additional money and potentially devalue their property.

Aside from 102 properties in the West End of New Castle, it also affects portions of Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson and Ossining town and village. A primary objective of the district is to protect Ossining’s drinking water source. Thus far, Cortlandt is the only one of the five municipalities to approve the restrictions.

However, homeowners who spoke last week argued that the town should not be forced into the adopting the more stringent guidelines when many of New Castle’s residents within the district are already protective of the water.

“I’m not sure there is a legal requirement for New Castle to follow the other towns,” said Glendale Road resident Edward Claridge. “I think the board and the town should make their property owners and their citizens sort of the first priority. We really don’t get any of this water. There’s really no benefit to any of the people in this district that I can see.”

Most of the regulations are very similar to what the residents currently must comply with but several appear to be stricter. One is the requirement for a homeowner to pump their septic systems every three years rather than every five years, an added cost and responsibility particularly for the residents who do not live in town year-round.

Another stipulation is that all subdivisions of at least four lots would have to be designed as a cluster or conservation subdivision with at least 30 percent of the land permanently preserved. District property owners would also face limitations if there is more than 5,000 square feet of soil disturbance. Lawn chemicals must be avoided within 25 linear feet of any watercourse or wetland buffer.

Glendale Road resident Bruce Topman said there appears to be more prohibitions rather than permissible uses that the town could grant permission to build in certain situations. With a permitted restriction, the property owner must demonstrate they would not cause harm instead of having their rights automatically restricted.

However, town Director of Planning Sabrina Charney Hull said that while that is true, the town’s other boards, such as the Planning Board and Environmental Review Board, are typically reluctant to be too lenient for

Another resident also pointed out that there would be a requirement of minimal salt use to de-ice driveways only be for safety reasons. For those who have driveways on steeper inclines, more salt is often needed during the winter.

Cortlandt resident Karen Wells of the Greater Teatown Defense Alliance said that properties with longer, steeper inclines might not be able to receive fuel deliveries unless they use a certain amount of salt to make a driveway safe.

Wells stressed to town officials that special use permits should be discontinued because it has allowed commercial development in environmentally sensitive areas.

“So I encourage the Town of New Castle to not only look at the comments from tonight but also consider looking at the special use permits that are allowed within the area,” she said.

Also speaking last week was Ossining Supervisor Elizabeth Feldman who stressed the importance of protecting the water source for about 44,000 people, many of whom are financially challenged.

“I think having a water source of our own is invaluable and irreplaceable,” Feldman said. “I think the next wars are going to be fought over access to water. I think that we have something very special.”

New Castle Supervisor Victoria Tipp said the hearing would remain open and the board would not decide what to do until the town and village of Ossining vote on whether to accept the restrictions.

Feldman said the Town of Ossining will reconvene its hearing this month and would likely close it a short time later.

Correction: In the original posting of this article, it was incorrectly reported that Karen Wells of the Greater Teatown Defense Alliance told New Castle officials that she supports special use permits. Wells opposes special use permits, which she believes fails to protect the environment. The Examiner regrets the error.

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